LANCASTER — The city of Albuquerque will take BYD Coach & Bus to court for failure to meet contractual obligations and delivering unsafe buses to the city, Mayor Tim Keller announced Friday.
The 739-page lawsuit comes after the city reportedly encountered numerous problems after the first few buses were delivered last October behind schedule, city officials said in a press release.
“We’ve exhausted our options with BYD. We can’t wait on broken promises and missed deadlines anymore and now it’s our responsibility to hold them accountable,” Keller said in a statement. “We do not take this decision lightly – now it is our responsibility to ensure a clean break with BYD so the city can move on. Through the legal process, we will professionally dissolve this relationship.”
Albuquerque city officials say they have tried working with BYD Coach & Bus — a U.S. company that is a wholly owned subsidiary of its Chinese corporate parent — but the company continued to fail to meet requirements set in the contract with the city including delays in the delivery of the buses, and incomplete certification testing at the Larson Transportation Institute’s Bus Research and Testing Center, in Altoona, Pennsylvania. The city says the bus batteries run at only 177 miles on a single charge even though the contract requires 275 miles on a charge.
“As we work to move Albuquerque toward an environmentally sustainable future, it would have been a great step to have electric buses on the route, that’s one of the reasons we tried to make it work with BYD for a year,” Keller said in a statement. “Unfortunately, the technology they promised simply isn’t ready for this route. Our aim is to continue to eventually move all of our fleet vehicles to more sustainable models as the technology evolves. In the meantime, we are going to have to use more traditional clean fuel buses to get this project moving.”
The BYD buses were manufactured in Lancaster, which has an all-union workforce of 850 employees. In response to a request from the Antelope Valley Press, BYD officials sent the following statement:
“BYD once again disputes the mayor’s false and misleading statements regarding BYD and its products,” the statement said. “It is unfortunate that the city has chosen to file a lawsuit. Prior to today’s press conference the city had refused to provide BYD with inspection reports documenting alleged problems with the buses. The city has never stated the amount of damages it claims to have suffered. Although the city has terminated the contract inconsistent with its terms, BYD worked in good faith and at significant expense to remove the buses by the city-imposed deadline. BYD is considering all legal options in response to the city’s actions.”
The city of Albuquerque purchased 18 buses from BYD for about $23 million for the Albuquerque Rapid Transit service. BYD delivered 15 buses. But the city did not pay for them.
According to a Nov. 16 statement from BYD the 60-foot articulated buses were delivered to Albuquerque in February. The city’s Transit District inspectors spent months inserted into the manufacturing process at BYD’s Lancaster plant.
“Those inspectors were in daily contact with their supervisors in Albuquerque who certified the buses for service on the Central Avenue corridor earlier this year,” the BYD statement said. “BYD worked tirelessly and in good faith with city officials to ensure its products met their requirements. In our commitment to world-class customer service, BYD offered the city extended warranties, additional electric battery charging equipment, and technicians to ensure a smooth transition toward emission-free public transportation.”
BYD said Keller never intended to honor the contract, adding the mayor admitted city transit officials have been working for many months with one of BYD’s competitors.
The city of Albuquerque released an independent report on Friday from the Center for Transportation and the Environment, which tested the buses’ batteries.
“CTE’s simulations found that the operational plan developed for ART – running the electric buses during the day, then recharging them overnight in preparation for the next day, could not be achieved by the buses BYD delivered to Albuquerque,” the city’s release said.
According to Albuquerque city officials, the buses were not certified at the testing center in Altoona. The city’s mechanics reviewed each of the buses for functionality safety, the city’s release said. The buses were found to have safety issues including brake pressure issues, multiple door issues, cracked or missing welds that compromise the integrity of the buses, malfunctioning bridge plates for wheelchair accessibility, and exposed high voltage cables that create a risk of electrical fires, according to city officials.
The city sent the 15 buses back to BYD on Nov. 28. One bus was returned, and the city did not accept delivery of four buses, which remained at the Lancaster plan.
Earlier this week Albuquerque city officials announced they purchased 10 clean diesel buses from New Flyer of America at an approximate cost of $870,000 each. The 60-foot, articulated, five-door clean diesel buses were ordered from an existing request for proposal from 2016, said Rick DeReyes, a spokesman for the city of Albuquerque Transit Department, also known as ABQ Ride.
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